I’ve written on this topic before, and it will probably come up again – a perennial question: why do companies sometimes dither so before hiring their preferred candidate?

We’ve done the search, completed the interviews and all parties agree on the preferred candidate – that’s the good news. The candidate is keen to sign and ready to resign from her current employer. Then there’s a snag. Something else must be done, or someone else has to see the candidate (often unrelated to whatever the candidate will be doing) or there’s just one more sign-off from head office that has to be sought. Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into a month, or even two. Then when we go back to the candidate and she says: “You know what? The push factors (perhaps an incompetent or annoying boss, poor procedures, low pay etc) have been fixed and I’m no longer looking, thanks so much.”

After all that time the candidate changed her mind. And who can blame her? Add in the fact that we have taken two months to conduct a fairly simple interview process and no wonder she has walked away. What would it be like to work for a company that can’t make practical and straightforward decisions? Is that the place she wants to help move her career forward? Probably not. Our ideal candidate just disappeared.

That leaves us scratching our heads. We all know that really great people are so hard to recruit, why would a company knowingly sabotage what could be a fabulous recruitment for itself? All the parties at the company think that they are blameless as, individually, they have all done their little bit. But when we add up all those “little bits” we sometimes find that the recruitment process that has been set up over the years is now so unwieldy that it’s a miracle anyone is hired at all. It’s time for HR to step in and try to restore some common sense into the recruitment process (on the assumption that they aren’t the ones who set it up). Or perhaps the chief executive needs to take a good look at what is going on in her company. She probably has no idea: her goals are simple – to hire the best – but as she never goes through the process herself, she doesn’t understand that the process itself is scaring away talent.

I’m not advocating hiring just anybody on a whim. Of course we need checks and balances to make sure that we don’t hire non-performers, lazy or toxic people. But for goodness’ sake, when you find a superstar who actually wants to work for you, why wouldn’t you do all you can to get that person in the company as quickly as possible?

As usual, let me know if you have any particular topic you would like to see covered here.

Gary Woollacott is an executive search consultant who works for Horton International in Vietnam, Thailand and Laos.  He can be reached at +84 8 3910 7682 or via woollacott@hortoninternational.com